Course 13, “Reason, Tradition, and the Good in the American Founding”

Fathom the Good addresses the question of the Good in the American Founding

This is a philosophical question, first asked by Socrates, that addresses higher human purposes. Today we strive to live according to our Christian moral understanding, but Socrates and other ancient philosophers used reason to determine what it means to be a good person and build good communities. This moral questioning has been deliberated over the millennia and underlies the American Founding. The most important of these questions, “How should we live?” and “What is the best way to govern?” guides Fathom the Good’s Adult Course 13. 

Why care about the question of the Good?

Socrates ushered in a new kind of philosophy that he called “human wisdom.” Today, we call this new philosophy “political philosophy.” In addition to Biblical faith, Good philosophy teaches us how to use reason to discover the truth of what is good. Such knowledge builds moral people and flourishing communities. It is what America needs to defeat radicalism and preserve true liberty.

The question of the Good and the American Founding

The question of the Good is expressed in the American Founding in exceptional ways. Adult Course 13 demonstrates how the Founders understood the tension between individual rights and the common good. This understanding is expressed in the words of Alexis de Tocqueville, John Locke, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and Edmund Burke. Contemporary intellectuals such as G.K. Chesterton and Seymour Lipset, and political leaders including Senator Biden, Judge Bork, and others, as well as early American clergymen, help us consider the nature of the American people as a people and what makes us a people today.

Course 13 Includes:

19 Videos

18 Podcasts

204 Lessons

Unit 1

  • The words of Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush demonstrate how science alone cannot address moral and political questions
  • Alexis de Tocqueville shows how intelligent solutions depend upon an openness to traditional philosophical and religious truths

Unit 2

  • Contemporary debates about the meaning and scope of “rights” show how we still benefit from the Founders’ careful thought today
  • The American Founding drew upon the scientific Enlightenment as well as more traditional sources of understanding.

Unit 3

  • Documents from John Locke and the American Founding, as well as related texts from early American clergymen, show that the American Founding was about more than individual rights and the material needs and physical security of the people

Unit 4

  • Documents from Abraham Lincoln, the Federalist Papers, and a famous speech by Edmund Burke, as well as statements by observers of America, explore what it means to be an American people
  • The idea of individual rights is not all there is to the American identity

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